Marc Petitjean, living in Fribourg since 1978, is a passionate amateur who became one of the great creators of fishing materials in the world.
For Marc Petitjean, fishing was first of all a family affair. It began in France, in the region of Troyes, when Marc as a child wandered along the banks of the rivers. His grandfather presented him with a simple bamboo rod, a very rudimentary tool, but sufficient to make him happy and to enable him to catch his first trout. A passion was born: Marc Petitjean contracted the fishing virus, an incurable malady.
In 1978, Marc left France for the province of Fribourg where he managed his professional obligations, his work in industry. But the exile to Switzerland was an exile full of promises, for in Fribourg (la Sarine) and its surroundings kilometers of trout streams awaited our adopted Swiss. At that time Marc converted to flyfishing, not only the most beautiful and noble method of fishing, but also a way of life, a philosophy (most flyfishers release their catch), a world unto itself.
In recent imagination flyfishing unavoidably evokes Robert Redford’s movie “A river runs through it”. This film revealed the esthetic, quasi mystical dimension of flyfishing, in which the beauty of casting and the communion with nature are as important as the catch itself. In a more pragmatic fashion flyfishing is based upon the imitation of insects on which the fish and particularly the trout feed under the the water, then on the surface during the hatches.
The whole game consists of enticing the fish with the artificial flies which are made by assembling on the hook all sorts of natural materials (cock feathers, peacock, duck, fibers, hare’s and rabbit fur) or artificial materials. In order to render these concoctions more realistic and to make them efficient, one must observe the fish and the insects in their behavior. From observation and experience the models of flies are produced, whose style can be realistic (“the exact fly”) or impressionistic (“the general fly”).
In the quiet of his home Marc with dressing artificial flies which he quickly put to the test, on rivers in the neighborhood or on the chalk streams of the Jura plateau. His favorite material is the feather from the romp of a duck, a wholly traditional component of the Jura flies, which was known (as Marc would discover later) to Swiss and French flyfishers since 1920.
The feather from the romp of a duck is a fabulous material for fishing since it is naturally hydrophobic; it is found at the base of the preening gland of the duck, hence its popular name “cul de canard” or CDC. The ducks whose feathers are destined for fishing are raised in the same regions as those destined for “foie gras” (in Hungary and southwest France). The only difference: it suffices to pluck the more older specimens in order to obtain about 25 feathers 3 to 4 times a year.
Little by little, encouraged by his fishing friends (such as Louis Limouzin and Michel Roggo), and noticing the great efficiency of his flies, Marc realizes his talents as a flydresser. At the end of the 80’s one of his friends, whose eyesight was declining, asked him for a type of fly that would be visible on the water under all circumstances. This fly, a wholly new creation and the fruit of long reflections, which gave its owner complete satisfaction, marked a turning point in Marc’s life. In 1990 he quit his job and decided to become a professional flydresser. A rather risky step, because the European market in fly fishing is not truly open and already dominated by trademarks known for many years. With a great deal of flair and courage, Marc decides to concentrate his production on a limited number of products, but of great quality and resolutely different.
Exploiting the immense possibilities of the CDC feather, Marc put together a complete catalog of flies not only for warm water but also for saltwater fishing. Very quickly these models met with extraordinary success in Switzerland, France and Germany and subsequently in Japan. Marc caused a new wind to blow through the flyfishing world: fishermen on the waterfront appreciated his flies, which were solid, easy to use and incredibly efficient. This success obliged Marc to delegate the production of his flies to women tiers, and he chose judiciously to concentrate himself on the design of new types of flies and new flyfishing articles. He thus created, among other things, a series of fishing rods, a vest, and tying tools, and these, displayed at international shows, helped to build the reputation of the flydresser from Fribourg. England, the cradle of flyfishing, and the United States, with its close to 8 million flyfishers, fell under his charm. Reward followed upon reward in the professional shows, such as the one in Denver, the most prestigious; American pros salute the inventiveness of European flydresser, Marc Petitjean.
Marc’s greatest victory is the conquest of the Anglo-Saxon market, the most difficult of all. A great number of his friends would not have put a single Swiss Franc on this eventuality; selling flyfishing materials to the English and to the Americans would be as vain and absurd as “trying to sell imported beer in Munich”. Almost without thinking Marc Petitjean brought a different tradition to flydressing with innovative and well thought out products, in a world, of entirely Swiss quality. Proof of this is the perfect alliance, in all his products, of form and function, of beauty and utility, which mark the true designer. Thus, in 2003, the Marc Petitjean Fishing Equipment company produced close to 250,000 fishing flies and 10,000 other articles such as the vest and the MP vise, sold in more than 30 countries.
In addition to these figures, it can be said that in less than 15 years of activity Marc Petitjean has managed to forge an exceptional image of himself with flyfishers and flydressers. Justifiably so, since patiently and with a great source of energy, the man has built his reputation, knowing full well that his activity remains a form of craftsmanship, the passion of which must remain intact.
After many years of work the passion of Marc Petitjean is effectively always present and goes far beyond his professional activities. He has documented the history of CDC flies in a remarkable fashion, thereby illustrating the importance of the Swiss tradition. With his charismatic personality he has shared his love of fishing and nature in publications, in Switzerland and abroad. He even made a movie on the reproduction of trout, showing how to preserve a natural habitat and the species that live in it.
Taken by the charm of Slovenia since his first visit in 1998, Marc goes there every year. He closely follows the efforts of local authorities to rehabilitate the aboriginal trout of the Adriatic basin : the marbled trout, also known as Marmorata.
Marc Petitjean is one of the distinguished guests at the Malaysia International Fly Fishing Festival 2012.
via United Fly-anglers Organization